BELFAST — A judge in Ireland has ruled against a Christian-owned bakery for declining to make a Bert and Ernie cake that was to be decorated with the phrase “Support Gay Marriage,” and has ordered them to pay a fine equating to nearly $800 U.S. dollars.
As previously reported, in May of last year, Ashers Baking Company in Newtonabbey—named after Genesis 49:20—was approached by a same-sex “marriage” supporter to bake the cake, which also was to feature the logo for the homosexual advocacy group QueerSpace. According to the Belfast Telegraph, the cake was for an event in observance of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Karen McArthur, the mother of manager Daniel McArthur, 24, initially accepted the order as she didn’t want the man to feel embarrassed. But as the matter was discussed with other family members, it was agreed upon that they could not go through with putting the message on the cake in good conscience before God. Daniel McArthur told reporters that the company contacted the customer and offered a refund, explaining that same-sex “marriage” is against their Christian beliefs.
However, the customer, Gareth Lee, soon reported Ashers Baking Company to the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland, which in turn sent a warning to to McArthur, stating that he and his bakery had discriminated against Lee. Same-sex “marriage” is not legal in Northern Ireland, although laws have been passed throughout the rest of the UK.
Last November, the Commission ordered the bakery to pay compensation or face legal action. As the McArthur’s refused, the case moved forward in court. The family gave testimony on the stand as to why they could not fulfill Lee’s order.
“We felt as Christians we could not in conscience put it on a cake. We believe the business is being given to us by God and how we use it is on our shoulders,” Daniel McArthur explained. “Our Christian faith is [of] the utmost importance to us. It is how we run our entire lives and bring our families up. Before God, it is not something we could do.”
“We seek to live at all times in accordance with the doctrines and teachings of the Bible. I have been a born-again Christian since I was seven. I love the Lord and I seek to please him in the way I live my life,” Karen McArthur said. “We discussed how we could stand before God and bake a cake like this promoting a case like this.”
Asher’s Bakery has stated that it is willing to serve homosexuals in general—one would not know about another’s sexual behavior unless they had requested a cake for such reasons—but should not be forced to decorate cakes with messages that urge others to “support gay marriage” in violation of their faith.
Lee told the court that he “assumed” that the order was being declined because of his homosexuality.
“It is not very pleasant to be considered not worthy of service because somebody else says they are Christian,” he stated. “It does not make me feel good in any respect.”
On Tuesday, Judge Isobel Brownlie ruled against the McArthurs, declaring them “guilty of unlawful discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.” She stated that because the bakery was not a religious organization, it wasn’t entitled to an exemption from the law.
“This is direct discrimination for which there can be no justification,” Brownlie said. “As much as I acknowledge their religious beliefs, this is a business to provide service to all. The law says they must do that.”
Daniel McArthur says that he is disappointed in the ruling, reiterating that Ashers Baking Company has no issue with serving homosexuals—only the message that was to go on the cake. He believes that businesses shouldn’t have to promote messages that are contrary to their values.
“We’ve said from the start that our issue was with the message on the cake—not with the customer—and that we didn’t know what the sexual orientation of Mr. Lee was, and it wasn’t relevant either. We’ve always been happy to serve any customers who come into our shops,” McArthur said. “The ruling suggests that all business owners will have to be willing to promote any cause or campaign, no matter how much they disagree with it.”
As previously reported, last month, an appeals court in Kentucky overturned a guilty verdict against Christian screenprinter Hands on Originals, stating that the business had a right to decline to print wording on t-shirts for a “gay pride” event.
The court noted that from 2010-2012 Hands on Originals declined 13 orders from various groups because of the message that was to be printed.
“Those print orders that were refused by HOO included shirts promoting a strip club, pens promoting a sexually explicit video and shirts containing a violence-related message,” it explained. “There is further evidence in the Commission record that it is standard practice within the promotional printing industry to decline to print materials containing messages that the owners do not want to support.”
“Nonetheless, the Commission punished HOO for declining to print messages advocating sexual activity to which HOO and its owners strongly oppose on sincerely held religious grounds,” the court continued. “The Commission’s order substantially burdens HOO’s and its owners’ free exercise of religion, wherein the government punished HOO and its owners by its order for their sincerely held religious beliefs. This is contrary to established constitutional law.”